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Nebraska WBB 78 Illinois 72: Recap

Issie Bourne and Sam Haiby had to improvise most of the night as Illinois disrupted a shorthanded Husker team. Nebraska dug deep and found a way to win in the final minute

Scott Bruhn

Amy Williams is shaking up the starting lineup due to Trinity Brady’s sprained ankle.

I am a bit surprised that Bella Cravens gets the nod over Annika Stewart, but I am sometimes surprised at Amy Williams’ choices for the starting lineup (see: Brown, Leigha). I am guessing there is a matchup they like or that Cravens has been putting in the work on the defensive side of the ball.

With Trinity Brady on crutches and Kenzie Helms leaving the program, that leaves eight available players for Nebraska, assuming Cayton and Dillard are still not recovered.

First Quarter

Nebraska’s big lineup scored first (Issie Bourne) but Illinois answered immediately. The game moved fast with both teams trading baskets and turnovers (more turnovers than baskets). Illinois seems determined to run the shorthanded Huskers.

Illinois did open up a bit of daylight at 8-4 as the clock went under seven minutes. Kate Cain registered her first block at 6:02. She actually blocked it twice, but it only gets counted once. Ruby Porter registered the first three pointer for Nebraska to bring them within 10-9. Illinois has been clogging the paint and trying to move fast with Nebraska’s big lineup.

At the under-five timeout the Huskers trail 12-9.

Both offenses heated up as the points came fast and furious with Nebraska’s Issie Bourne demanding the ball and making plays on offense and on the glass. The quarter ended at 21-21.

Second Quarter

This quarter already looks to be a repeat of the first where the Illini are determined to run and keep the game fast. The Illinois defense is playing well and has picked off a couple of Husker inbounds plays that were intended for Kate Cain. Sammy Haiby showed why she is clutch in short shot clock situations as she continues to challenge the Illini at the rim.

At the under-five timeout Illinois leads 26-25.

The Illini scored four straight points out of the timeout but Whitney Brown hit a three, followed by a another Cain block. The points came fast and furious.

BTW, Issie Bourne has great footwork. The Husker turnovers have been a huge issue.

The Huskers went down by as much as four late in the quarter, but fought their way back to a tie at 38-38 with 37 seconds left. The Illini turned the ball over to Nebraska, giving the Huskers a chance at the final shot of the half. Issie Bourne was fouled and made one of two free throws, giving Illinois the ball back with time to run some offense. Sam Haiby fouled a three point shooter. Two of the charity shots were good and the half ended with Illinois at 40 and Nebraska 39.

If the Huskers can get Big Kate going in the second half, Illinois will be forced to adjust. Right now, the Illini are dictating the terms of engagement and Nebraska is hanging in there by sheer athleticism and scrappiness.

Third Quarter

Illinois shows no signs of letting up on defense and is almost overly aggressive in trying to keep the ball on the perimeter for Nebraska. They are equally aggressive on offense and score the first four points of the half. Issie Bourne finally gets the Huskers on the board with two free throws a little more than two minutes into the half. Kate Cain sits down since she hasn’t been effective in any way. Amy Williams is apparently conceding the pure paint play and letting her athletic forwards try to counter the Illini game plan. A Sam Haiby three point play ties the game at 44.

S.A.M. F. H.A.I.B.Y. (I don’t think her real middle name begins with F)

Nebraska takes their first lead in a while behind her ability to slither and slide through defenders on her way to the basket. Huskers 46 Illini 44

Illinois splashed two straight three pointers and added a “normal” basket to go up 52-46, which forced Amy Williams to call a timeout.

Sam Haiby broke the 8-0 Illini run with a layup and foul shot but some questionable defense by Nebraska allowed Illinois to get those three points right back. Amy Williams decided to bring Kate Cain back in the game.

Nebraska is not rebounding on the defensive end of the court consistently, but they are getting the boards at key times (especially Bella Cravens). The only thing they have going on offense is Sam Haiby burning Illinois going to the rim and getting fouled.

Somehow, this discombobulated Husker team fights their way within one point at 54-53 as the clock went under two minutes. Cain and Cravens notched blocks on back to back Illinois possessions to ratchet up the defense. Cain still hasn’t hit a basket and she is clearly frustrated. With six seconds left in the quarter, Nebraska was up 55-54 but Illinois had the ball. Their three pointer missed.

Bella Cravens has been a force on the glass. While people like me scream to see more of the offensive fireworks of Annika Stewart, Cravens quietly cleans up the trash.

Fourth Quarter

With Sam Haiby on the bench, the Huskers offense went stale while Illinois immediately hit from outside the arc. The Illini are supposed to be a poor three-point team and this is where I think Nebraska is especially missing Trinity Brady. She has the combination of height and strength at the guard position that could force Illinois to adjust what is giving Nebraska fits. Unfortunately, she is not available and the Huskers are holding on by silly string and hope.

Illinois is up 62-57 with 6:20 left in the game. Annika Stewart was exceptional in her first two games, but has been stale tonight. Two Issie Bourne free throws closed the gap and Sam Haiby had to again generate offense to pull Nebraska within one.

Every time Nebraska clawed their way back, the Illini found a way to answer and maintained a two point (67-65) lead as the clock went under three minutes. Kate Cain was fouled on a defensive rebound and became the final Husker to get into the scoring column when she made both free throws to tie the game at 67. Illinois took a timeout at 2:32 as the Huskers went into a rare zone defense.

That defense forced a desperation end-of-shot-clock play by Illinois and Sammy Haiby again weaved her way through the defense to put Nebraska up 69-67. Haiby grabbed a defensive rebound, penetrated into the paint, got fouled and went to the line (good). Sam Haiby has 29 points - a career high.

Cain blocked a point blank shot and the ball went out of bounds and was originally awarded to Illinois. Replay showed that no Nebraska player touched it. Issie Bourne showed great judgment to not touch the ball and the Huskers got the possession while up 71-67 with 1:05 left.


Fortunately, Kate Cain brought down the defensive rebound and was fouled. She made both charity shots (that is something no Husker fan takes for granted) and put Nebraska up by six with 55 seconds left.

The Huskers forced a five second count on the out of bound play with 50 seconds left. Illinois set up their full court press. They inbounded the ball to Sam Haiby and she was fouled. Nebraska still has fouls to give and two timeouts.

Sammy made both free throws to notch her first 30+ point game, and most importantly, go up by eight points with 47 seconds left. #SammyIsClutch

Nebraska has scored 12 straight points.

Bella Cravens pulled down a defensive rebound, got hit in the face, and drew the fifth foul on an Illini player. She couldn’t shoot because of the hit in the eye and Annika Stewart came in. She missed the first but sunk the second to put the Huskers up by nine and extend the Husker run to 13-0. Illinois hit a three pointer and fouled Nebraska in transition (25 seconds). Sam Haiby hit both shots to go up 78-70. A quick layup by Illinoi closed the gap to six.

Garbage time

Final. Nebraska 78 Illinois 72

Sam Haiby scored a career high 33 and Issie Bourne a career high 21. No other Husker scored more than five points, but every available Husker got into the scoring column.

This was not a pretty win. It was a scrappy win where talented players found a way despite the entire game plan appearing to be blown up in their faces. Illinois disrupted Nebraska every way they could and forced Nebraska to improvise. Good job ladies!

In the postgame press conference, Bella Cravens really impressed me with her understanding of the game and how difficult it was to adjust to a three-forward lineup compared to the normal three-guard lineup Nebraska uses. She understood the communication and understood how she had to adjust to cleaning up rebounds when she realized it wasn’t going to be her day on offense. A high IQ player like that is definitely an asset in a game where all plans get thrown out the window - like tonight.

Next Game

The Huskers will travel to Omaha to take on Creighton on Monday at 5 pm. It will be televised on NET television for those of you within the state.

Amy Williams Full Post-Game Remarks

Bella Cravens Full Post-Game Remarks

Sam Haiby Full Post-Game Remarks